Monday, 4 July 2016

European Registrars Conference 2016 - The transformation of the condition report: from colour-coded pens to digital media

Jennifer Hefner Head Registrar of the American Federation of Arts, Co-Founder of Articheck, USA

Jennifer started by introducing the background to the development of the Articheck tool, the progression from the analogue to the digital. She has managed an ever increasing amount of paperwork including the condition report during her career.  

The condition report records an army of things and acts as a historical timeline for the evolution of the work. There are no requirements for who can complete these reports and no international standards for a template. There is a subjective component as the specialism the reporter has will bias their interpretation of the object.

Despite this, the form of the condition report has remained consistent over the last few decades.
Noting changes on photographs is routinely used for example, colour coding changes with pens. However, these annotations can often be difficult to interpret. Highlighting can obscure the detail itself on the image. There is often no dates or initials for context and copying degrades the detail.

There is the issue of documentation retention. What is the long term answer? Digitalisation, deep storage, perhaps destruction after a set number of years?

In an attempt to move forward from paper based reports she had started using PDF Expert to scan reports and produce digital copies but these were not easily editable and required manual entry.
There was a lack of audit trail.

Annika Erikson had already been developing a new app during her time as a Paper Conservator at the Tate. An ambitious loan programme there with limited resources had led to the need for a rapid entry system which she had started to develop and at this point Jennifer and Annika joined forces to found the company.

Testing phase:

White Cube Gallery undertook testing of the app. They found a stand analogue report took 45 minutes but with Articheck this was reduced to just 10 minutes. They also undertook surveying work. The majority of those surveyed were interested in going digital if it saved time!














The mobile app works offline but wifi is needed for uploading to the cloud. CMS (collections management system) data can be migrated to Articheck account and categorises can be tailored. You have an annotation pallet to choose from and a language function for translation.















You can highlight areas of damage after picking the annotation you want and they do not obscure the detail within the image. Popup windows can be added for notes. Reference images can be embedded and the report will be generated and saved in the individual or institutions account. There is a legal audit trail once completed and it will be signed and dated and locked. New layers can be added but these will also be signed and time stamped. Reports can be shared by creating user permissions for external clients.

Condition reporting in the digital era!


The future:
Cloud based applications such as Collector Systems. Tagging of objects allowing environmental data to be collected in transit and linked into the Articheck programme automatically. The use of jpg image comparison software with embedded measurement tool allowing changes to be tracked.

Jennifer packed a lot into her short slot so for further details do check out www.articheck.co.uk . It is a very attractive and clever system with plenty to recommend it for ease of use, storage solutions and data security/sharing possibilities. As someone working within a medium sized museum service, with a CMS which includes conservation tools I am not sure paying for this system and running it alongside our other database is the way to go. I do think it can tell us a lot about how to develop our own systems and for those who do not already work within a fixed frame work the usability and comprehensive nature of this tool could prove very beneficial, helping speed up workflows and increasing the information held on individual objects.

By Fran Coles ARC, Conservation & Documentation Manager, Bristol Museums, Galleries & Archives 

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